Mercedes started the 2022 Formula One season as the all conquering champions winning every title bar one since 2014. However, the new FIA car design regulations together with the simple fact that all things eventually come to end meant the latest F1 year was woeful for the team from Brackley.
Lewis Hamilton failed for the first time since his debut in 2007 to win a race and Mercedes were never in either of the F1 title challenges.
Mercedes W13 a pig of a car
The W13 car looked difficult to manage during testing in Bahrain and as the season began it was clear the Mercedes’ drivers were struggling more than most with porpoising and bouncing. The difficulties climaxed in Azerbaijan where Lewis Hamilton struggled to extract himself from the car after a punishing ride around the streets of the Baku.
A number of F1 tech experts criticised the Mercedes “zero sidepod” design believing the team should ditch the concept route suite. Yet James Allison and the Mercedes technical team refused to abandon the car design and ploughed on with upgrade after upgrade in an attempt to make the W123 competitive.
George Russell had made the move from back of the grid Williams Racing to the 8 times F1 constructor champions but instead of challenging for race wins and titles he along with Hamilton merely snapped for the occasional podium and top 5 finishes during the first half of the season.
Hamilton struggles more than Russel with W13
Hamilton struggled more than his new team mate with the W13 even failing to make the top 10 during round 4 in Imola.
Yet the team Brough a number of updates to the car which improved its performance significantly but only at ‘Mercedes friendly’ circuits.
Finally things came together at the penultimate round in Brazil where Russell scored his maiden F1 victory and Hamilton ensured the teams only 1-2 of the year. Reflecting on the challengers the team faced and its persistent attempts to improve, Lewis Hamilton believes overall the team did a good job.
Mercedes false dawns
“It’s been impressive, for sure,” said Lewis. “I always knew that we could do it. I never doubted that we would get there in the end, but there was lots of trial and error, and so much failure this year.
“There were times we brought upgrades and they didn’t work, and times we tried different things and it didn’t work.
“I tried so many things and failed so many times but through that you learn and grow.
“That’s what it’s been about this year. It’s been about failure, breaking down egos, strengthening our relationships, and strengthening our communications. From that perspective, it’s been really empowering.”
Barcelona break through?
Mercedes designed a raft of upgrades and tested them at a ‘filming day’ the week before the Spanish GP where they arrived with a huge amount of hype and hope of significant improvement. Whilst the car performed better in Barcelona and Hamilton impressed by climbing from P19 after a first lap puncture to P5 at the chequered flag, it felt like the upgrades failed to deliver the promise predicted.
Hamilton reflects, “The first big step was Barcelona, that was our first hint of there being more potential in the car,” said Hamilton.
“It turned out to be a bit of a false positive; the car was good there but then the races afterwards were difficult.
Lewis feels the force
“It was like a ghost was in the car and it kept coming back. But then there was France and that felt like a good step with our first double podium of the season. And then there was Austin, too, with the update we had working well.”
The reality was Mercedes lucked in at the French GP given Carlos Sainz started from the back of the grid due to engine penalties and Charles LeClerc inexplicably crashed out of the race while leading.
In Austin the Mercedes duo were 0.6 seconds of the pace of the pole position time and started P5 and P6. Multiple safety cars and a slow pit stop for Verstappen opened the door for Hamilton to lead the race.
No progress was the reality
Yet this position for the Mercedes lead driver was a false one and the recovering Verstappen overtook Hamilton with ease with 6 laps to go.
It is arguable Mercedes in fact did not recover any ground in terms of 1 lap pace to Red Bull over the course of the season and most of their podium finishes were as a result of others failing. So it may be Lewis will be in need of supernatural intervention in his pursuit of an eight drivers’ championship in the upcoming season of 2023.
Making the most of the time off. 🙌 Lewis, George & Toto tell us their plans for the 2022 off-season… pic.twitter.com/8XGFlD7bUL
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 22, 2022